In The Know: Congressman John Sullivan loses GOP primary

by | June 27th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Jim Bridenstine upset five-term incumbent John Sullivan in Tuesday’s 1st Congressional District Republican primary. Bridenstine will now face Democrat John Olson in the general election. The 2nd District primary to replace incumbent Dan Boren, who is not running for re-election, will go to a run-off between Markwayne Mullin and George Faught on the Republican side and Rob Wallace and Wayne Herriman on the Democratic side.

Tea party-backed candidates for state House and Senate seats struggled in their quest to shift the Oklahoma Legislature further to the right. Sen. Clark Jolley won a hotly contested primary race against Paul Blair. The only incumbent to lose in the primary was Rep. Guy Liebmann, R-Oklahoma City.

Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s stock plummeted nearly 9 percent Monday after Reuters reported on emails that detailed possible collusion with another oil and natural gas company to suppress prices in a Michigan land auction. Reuters profiled one of the landowners who was affected. NewsOK profiled the new Chesapeake board chair.

The OK Policy Blog discussed controversies in Norman and Tulsa that demonstrate the risk of too much Chamber of Commerce-driven policy. Government Health IT examines Oklahoma’s online Medicaid enrollment system, a national leader that may be emulated by other states trying to overhaul their systems to prepare for the streamlined enrollment of millions of individuals in 2014 under health reform. Thousands of Oklahoma Medicare clients have already received more than $35.1 million in prescription drug discounts under the Affordable Care Act.

With many officers forced to work double shifts, Oklahoma prisons are struggling to maintain adequate staffing. The OK Policy Blog previously shared data on the shrinking state workforce. Okie Funk writes that Oklahoma needs more state workers and teachers to protect quality of life. The Oklahoma City School Board discussed whether to change a policy that bans volunteers convicted of felonies and certain misdemeanors. State Superintendent Janet Barresi wrote a NewsOK op-ed on her agenda for education reform. Urban Tulsa Weekly discusses the importance of the non-profit sector for creating jobs.

The Number of the Day is how many people with a disability in Oklahoma receive Social Security income. In today’s Policy Note, a Princeton economist and former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve examines what a pro-growth agenda based on logic and facts rather than partisan ideology would look like.

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It matters who guards the henhouse

by | June 26th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (3)

No one would argue that Oklahoma’s business community does not have a major influence on public policy. They benefit from a significant lobbying infrastructure through Chambers of Commerce, extensive personal connections between business leaders and elected officials, and a state political culture that holds business in high esteem.

The business community is a positive influence in many ways. They create jobs, wealth, and opportunities that benefit millions of Oklahomans. However, precisely because this sector has so many natural advantages, we should be wary of going too far in giving one segment of the community control over decisions that affect all of us.

Recent debates in two Oklahoma municipalities offer prime examples.

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In The Know: Chesapeake and rival plotted to suppress land prices

by | June 26th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Reuters has uncovered emails showing Chesapeake discussing with a Canadian natural gas company how to avoid bidding against each other in a public land auction, a possible violation of federal antitrust law. NewsOK examines what Oklahoma’s new open carry law means for employers who wish to prohibit handguns on the premises. An estimated 519,000 Oklahoma residents suffered substantial financial losses in 2010.

Sen. Ralph Shortey said Supreme Court decision overturning most of Arizona’s immigration law actually clears the way for his bill to confiscate property of undocumented immigrants and charge anyone who transports, rents to, or does business with undocumented immigrants with a felony. OK Policy previously discussed problems with Shortey’s bill and other immigration measures proposed in the Legislature last year. These Oklahoma bills contradict the Supreme Court’s ruling that the federal government has broad discretion to decide whether and how to enforce immigration law and states cannot impose their own restrictions on immigrants.

Oklahoma City councilman Ed Shadid says his cousin, Anthony Shadid, blamed the New York Times for his death while reporting in Syria. The OK Policy Blog shares data on the shrinking state employee workforce, which has dropped by 1,633 workers since 2001. NewsOK complained that it is class warfare for OK Policy and Citizens for Tax Justice to explain how taxpayers at different income levels would be affected by competing plans for the Bush tax cuts. Businessweek writes that the nine states with the highest personal income taxes on residents outperformed or kept pace on average with the nine that don’t tax their residents’ incomes.

The Number of the Day is the amount general revenue collections through May 2012 remain below pre-downturn FY ’07 levels. In today’s Policy Note, SCOTUSblog provides a summary in plain English of the Supreme Court’s immigration decision.

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The shrinking state employee workforce

by | June 25th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (1)

In the wake of three consecutive years of steep budget cuts, the number of state employees staffing correctional facilities, inspecting restaurants and nursing homes, serving victims of abuse and neglect, and performing other public functions has declined sharply.

Source: House of Representatives Fiscal Staff based on Office of State Finance data

In FY 2012, state government employed 35,504 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) employees. (The FY 2012 numbers are the year-to-date average for the first nine months of the fiscal year.) This is a drop of 3,804 workers, or 9.8, percent, since FY 2009. Oklahoma’s total population has grown by some 330,000 since 2001, while the state employment has dropped by 1,633 workers, a decline of 4.4 percent.

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In The Know: Misinformation abounds after Obama immigration order

by | June 25th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that immigration experts are preparing for a surge of interest about President Obama’s decision to ease rules on the deportation of immigrants brought here as young children, but they are warning about misinformation when the specific rules haven’t been developed yet. The number of lawmakers coming back to the Legislature every year has returned to levels that existed before term limits. State Auditor Gary Jones plans to audit several state tax credit programs.

Oklahoma colleges and universities are seeking to improve the effectiveness of remediation courses. The Regents voted to approve tuition and fee increases ranging from 3 percent to 8 percent. The Associated Press spoke with some of the estimated 2,000 high school students who would otherwise have graduated last year but are still trying to pass end-of-instruction tests. See some sample questions from the tests here. The state of per pupil spending in Oklahoma was discussed on the okeducationtruths and Okie Funk blogs.

NewsOK examines the challenge to incumbent Republicans from Tea Partiers and social conservatives in tomorrow’s primary. Oklahoma Senate candidate Paul Blair filed a libel, defamation and false light lawsuit against his election opponent, Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, citing negative advertisements run by a political action committee. An appeals court temporarily blocked an EPA rule aimed at reducing air pollution emissions from three northeastern Oklahoma power plants.

NewsOK examined the state’s special review committee on child welfare, which was used as a model for the citizen advisory panels that would replace the DHS Commission if State Question 765 passes. Emergency rules regulating commercial pet breeders are ready to take effect July 1. Federal funding for Oklahoma tribes is helping road projects across the state. The Cherokee Nation and other tribes could receive millions more in reimbursements for money spent on federal programs due to a Supreme Court decision.

The Number of the Day is the percentage increase in premiums for family health coverage in Oklahoma between 2000 and 2009. In today’s Policy Note, The New Republic discusses the tens of millions of Americans without access to health care who could continue to be denied if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act.

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The Weekly Wonk: June 22, 2012

by | June 22nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week OK Policy announced that Linda Edmonson, social worker and community volunteer, has joined our Board of Directors.  We updated you on what eventually happened to all of the bills we wrote about this session.

Also this week, we analyzed how Oklahomans would fare under competing tax plans from President Obama and Congressional Republicans.  We posted a short video that explores the role of summer food programs in feeding children whose families rely on meals during the school year to help stretch their grocery budget.

The Enid News & Eagle cited our work in an article reviewing the legislative session.  Our Director David Blatt wrote in The Journal Record about inadequacies in Oklahoma’s health care system that will remain and become even more urgent if the Affordable Care Act is overturned by the Supreme Court.

In The Know, Policy Notes

  • The Pew Center on the States reports on the growing gap between states’ outstanding public pension and health care liability, and the money they’ve actually set aside to fund them.
  • The Economic Policy Institute discusses the troubling trend of young families falling even farther behind in savings.
  • Governing examines the Affordable Care Act Prevention Fund that is putting billions of dollars into federal, state and local public health initiatives.
  • The New York Times reports on difficulties faced by underemployed and underpaid workers during the recession.
  • The New Republic examines uninsured Americans in the South and West who would lose most if the Supreme Court strikes down the new health care law.

Numbers of the Day

  • 1 in 3 – Oklahoma youths report having ever used marijuana, 2011
  • 22,769 billion – Amount in cubic feet of the proven dry natural gas reserves in Oklahoma, 4th most in the U.S., 2009
  • 3.2 percent – Percentage growth of Oklahoma’s labor force, those who are employed or unemployed and actively looking for work, since Dec. 2007; the working age population grew 6 percent during that same period.
  • 2nd – Suicide’s rank as a cause of death among Oklahomans aged 10-24.
  • $184 million – Amount funding for common education in Oklahoma for FY 2013 falls short of FY 2009 appropriation levels.

In The Know: Oklahoma still near the bottom in per-pupil education funding

by | June 22nd, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

New Census data shows Oklahoma still ranked in the bottom five states in per-pupil spending on education.  The state auditor and inspector will audit tax credit programs administered by the Oklahoma Tax Commission.  The Oklahoma Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a proposal to allow grocery stores to sell wine.

City and county officials in Tulsa are nearing agreement on a possible tax package for airport industrial complex improvements and business incentives.  The Oklahoman questioned a $9.5 million price tag for legal work in a suit against the state for failure to adequately protect children under their supervision.  A minister wrote in a letter to the editor of the Muskogee Phoenix that he’s concerned with the growing trend of candidates and elected officials who put religious principles over public service.

A video on the OK Policy Blog explores the role of summer food programs in feeding children whose families rely on meals during the school year to help stretch their grocery budget.  State Treasurer Ken Miller told the Norman Chamber of Commerce that the key to continued prosperity is a diversified economy.

The Number of the Day is the number of Oklahoma youths who report having ever used marijuana.  In today’s Policy Note, The Pew Center on the States reports on the growing gap between states’ outstanding public pension and health care liability, and the money they’ve actually set aside to fund them.

continue reading In The Know: Oklahoma still near the bottom in per-pupil education funding

Watch This: Out of school, out of food

by | June 21st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Watch This | Comments (0)

Hunger is a chronic problem in Oklahoma.  In 2009, 28 percent of the state’s children lived in households that reported problems maintaining food security during the past year, the highest percentage in the country.  This four-minute video from No Kid Hungry explores the role of summer food programs, some privately-run and some supported with federal dollars, in feeding children whose families rely on meals during the school year to help stretch their grocery budget.  Click here to learn more about Oklahoma’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).

In The Know: Oklahoma colleges and universities propose tuition and fee increases

by | June 21st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know all but one of Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities requested tuition and fee increases for next year. OU President David Boren called for increased funding for Common and Higher Education and also endorsed reducing the number of school districts and public colleges and universities in the state. The Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences tied for the top spot in U.S. News and World Report’s ranking of the 10 Most Popular Medical Schools.

Six Oklahoma community health centers were awarded $3.6 million in federal grants under the Affordable Care Act. A new report from Families USA shows that thousands of American and hundreds of Oklahomans are dying every year because they don’t have health insurance. Read the full report here. In the Journal Record, David Blatt discusses inadequacies in Oklahoma’s health care system that will remain and become even more urgent if the Affordable Care Act is overturned by the Supreme Court.

The OK Policy Blog shares analysis on how Oklahomans would fare under competing tax plans from President Obama and Congressional Republicans. StateImpact Oklahoma reports that state energy regulators across the country are having a hard time keeping up with the booming natural gas industry, with many wells going uninspected due to inadequate staff and funding. Oil and gas drill operators are standing down today to discuss the recent rise in fatal accidents in Oklahoma’s oil fields.

State Rep. Mike Reynolds called on the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce to reveal who is funding a group created to rate Oklahoma judges. A deal pushed by the Tulsa Metro Chamber for a tax package to fund airport industrial complex improvements and other business incentives could be made public next week. A federal agency has pulled back its threat to withhold $50 million from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for releasing information after a child dies from abuse and neglect.

Mike Connelly discusses evidence that recent criminal justice reforms are already beginning to falter due to lack of funding. Connelly previously did a guest post for the OK Policy Blog on the questions we should be asking about criminal justice reform. Forbes examines surprising economic success stories in the Great Plains, especially Oklahoma City.

The Number of the Day is the amount in cubic feet of the proven dry natural gas reserves in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, the Economic Policy Institute discusses the troubling trend of young families falling even farther behind in savings.

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How Oklahomans fare under competing plans for the Bush tax cuts

by | June 20th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (0)

Middle- and low-income Oklahomans would pay somewhat more in taxes under the Congressional Republicans’ approach to extending the Bush tax cuts than they would under President Obama’s approach, while high-income Oklahomans would pay far less under the Republican approach, according to a new analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ).  National figures show the same pattern.

Under President Obama’s proposal, all Americans would keep part of the Bush tax cuts, and only 1.4 percent of Oklahomans would lose any portion of those cuts. The bottom 60 percent of Oklahomans would receive an average tax cut of $640 in 2013 while the richest one percent would get an average tax cut of $17,140. President Obama has also proposed expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for low- to moderate-income working families.

continue reading How Oklahomans fare under competing plans for the Bush tax cuts